Investing in Inclusion Pitch Competition

On Friday, March 6, 2020, five teams came together at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, to compete in the third annual Investing in Inclusion Pitch Competition, hosted by the Center for Equity Gender and Leadership (EGAL). Since 2018, the Investing in Inclusion Pitch Competition has provided an avenue for MBA students and their teams to pitch start-up ventures related to diversity, equity, and inclusion. The annual pitch competition embodies one of Berkeley Haas’ core defining leadership principles, Question the Status Quo, and highlights the School’s deep commitment to nurturing a community rooted in equity and inclusion.

The competition’s five finalists, representing five different MBA programs across the US, had the opportunity to pitch their ideas to a panel of judges representing various industries, from investors to tech to retail. The panel of judges included Kathy Downing, Managing Director at Golden Seeds; Prayag Narula, Founder & Chairman of LeadGenius; Enki Toto, Investor at Salesforce Impact Fund; and Alanna Shipley, Director of Global Shopper & Dockers Insights at Levi Strauss & Co. After the pitches, the judges deliberated to determine the top three teams based on the defensibility and scalability of their idea, as well as their potential social impact.

The ideas presented were all rooted in advancing equity and inclusion, and included a consulting firm building a community of emerging leaders committed to inclusion, diversity, equity, accessibility, and social justice, as well as an online community to support Latinas at every stage of their academic journeys. Ultimately, the winners of the competition and $15,000 in cash prizes included, FIT’D, KnoNap, and Oya Apparel.

Coming in third place was Oya Apparel, an eco-friendly woman’s legging line that puts a woman’s health first. Oya’s unique leggings provide a combination of health-promoting features around ventilation, odor control, and absorption, as well as an inclusive size range of S-3XL. In second place was KnoNap, a cocktail napkin capable of detecting the presence of illicit drugs in a beverage.

FIT’D, founded by Kelly Cure and Charlie Davidmann, came in first place. FIT’D is a platform that connects students from community colleges and non-traditional backgrounds to their dream jobs at top tier companies. Their vision is to improve access to quality employment, and workforce mobility, by reaching a broader range of applicants, helping every candidate to get their Foot In The Door (FIT’D). They do this by partnering with community colleges and job centers to pair candidates with top tier companies looking to hire harder to reach, diverse candidates. What sets them apart is the FIT’D automated mock-interview tool, available 24/7, free of charge to applicants.

After the competition, Kelly shared how FIT’D will leverage the prize money, as well as the judges’ feedback and insights:

[The competition] came at a really good time because we’d done several manual pilots to the system before building it. The money will be used to start building the job board platform and create the automated mock-interview tool, leveraging natural language processing (NLP) to run and transcribe the interviews…Every time we get the chance to pitch we learn something new and have a chance to receive real-time feedback from VC’s and industry experts. EGAL was exceptional, as were our fellow competitors and judges who are also on the frontlines of working to improve D&I.

The team’s goal for the long-run is to be the go-to platform for companies committed to diversifying their workforces, and plan to do this with their automated mock-interview tool and by building a deep and lasting network of mentors and mentees.

The Center for Equity, Gender, and Leadership is thrilled to have hosted another successful Investing in Inclusion Pitch Competition, and is looking forward to hearing from more founders next year. To learn more about the competition and future application deadlines, visit the website.

Photos by Jim Block

At the heart of UC Berkeley's Business School, the Center for Equity, Gender, and Leadership educates equity-fluent leaders to ignite and accelerate change.